In High Spirits in Newfane, NY

June 6, 2013


You’re probably wondering where the heck Newfane, NY is, right? And why the heck you should go there, huh?

To be honest, I was kind of wondering the same thing when I showed up there for my overnight stay at the Fly Inn Lodge.

Because researching destinations?

That’s not really a thing I do.

Luckily, the lodge hooked me up with this big table o’ brochures.


Wahoo! Table o’ brochures!

And this pile o’ cinnamon rolls.


Wahoo! Pile o’ cinnamon rolls!

Because I can’t really be expected to do any research without at least two to three cinnamon rolls in my system.

After spending my morning perusing brochures and stuffing my face full of icing and pastry, I learned that Newfane is located on Lake Ontario.

And I was all like, “What? We have Lake Ontario in New York State? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”  Honestly, you guys, I’ve lived in this state for most of my life, and I had no idea. I thought Lake Ontario was only in, you know, Ontario. I should really think about looking at a map sometime.

I also learned that Newfane is famous for booze and ghosts. And I can’t really think of two better reasons to visit a place, can you?

You see, Newfane is smack-dab in the middle of the Niagara wine region.

Newfane also happens to be smack-dab in the middle of Niagara ghost region.

Okay, so that’s not really a thing. But the town does have a number of famous local ghosts. And I love visiting places that have fun ghost stories. That is until later at night when I can’t sleep because THE GHOSTS ARE GOING TO COME AND EAT MY FACE OFF.

So, needless to say, I was pretty excited for my day of adventuring in Newfane. Excited and terrified and kind of worried for my face. I mean, I like my face, you guys. I’d rather it not be eaten off by ghosts.

Olcott Beach


I have a very strict no-booze-and-ghosts-before-noon policy. Actually this policy only applies to ghosts. So I decided to start my day off at the beach which I was pretty sure would be a ghost-free zone. (Spoiler alert: I was wrong.)

Back in its heyday, Olcott Beach was quite the summer destination. Families and couples visiting nearby Niagara Falls would come here for its Coney Island-like attractions and fancy-pants hotel.

The hotel has long since been demolished, but there are still a number of charming attractions located near the beach.

There’s an old-timey carousel park, which was, sadly, closed on the day I was visiting as I was there right before Memorial Day. But I still poked around and took a bunch of photos through the gate like a creeper until someone came out and told me it was closed.


The carousel park

There’s an adorable little boardwalk with lots of cute shops selling trinkets and ice cream.

The boardwalk

The boardwalk

And there’s the very lovely and leafy Krull Park which offers good views of the Lake below.

Krull Park

Krull Park

The beach itself turned out to be kind of small and dingy.

The beach

The beach

But on the plus side, I’m pretty sure it was TOTALLY HAUNTED.

You see, as I was walking on the beach, I managed to step on a huge fish skeleton which worked its way through my flip-flop and put a hole in my foot. And it just so happens that I had spent the day before fishing on the Niagara River.


Or huge-fish-ghost coming to haunt me and give me fish-tetanus?

I think we all know the answer.

(And the answer is HUGE-FISH-GHOST. There are no coincidences, people!)


HUGE-FISH-GHOST! (as seen attached to the bottom of my flip-flop)

Van Horn Mansion


Seeing as I had already been visited by the Ghosts of Fishing Past, I decided to renege on my no-ghosts-before-noon policy and stop by the Van Horn Mansion.

The mansion was home to one of the first bigwigs of Newfane, Judge James Van Horn, and the site of Newfane’s first town meeting back in the 1820’s. It also happens to be the home to Newfane’s most famous ghost, the first wife of James Van Horn, Malinda.

Malinda was said to have haunted the grounds of the house for decades – clomping up and down the steps, freaking out the neighbors by showing up in the windows, and running across the street every once in a while to make cars swerve out of the way. You know, typical ghost stuff.

In the early 1990s, Malinda’s body was discovered by cadaver-sniffing dogs, and she was buried in a small garden to the side of the house. Things have been pretty quiet around the mansion ever since then. Has her soul  finally come to rest? Or is she just waiting for a nice face to chew off? Who is to say, really?

Malinda's grave

Malinda’s grave

The mansion itself has been beautifully restored and houses a number of nifty displays of cool, old-timey stuff.

Ooo, old-timey stuff!

Ooo, old-timey stuff!

I was lucky enough to get an impromptu tour with a member of the local historical society who happened to be at the house on the day I arrived. I didn’t see any ghosts while I was in there, but I did see some creepy baby dolls. And I think we can all agree that the first step is creepy baby dolls, and the second step is ghosts.


Murphy’s Orchard


The big draw at Murphy’s Orchard is not the countless fruit trees or the billions and billions of fruit jams available for purchase.

It’s the concealed room under one of the barns, which was used to hide escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. You can’t go in the room, but you can peek into it from above. And even though it’s all dusty and cobwebby and dark, I have to say it was a truly powerful experience.


The underground room

Especially when you have signs like this on the wall nearby.


In addition to the underground room, the barn houses informational displays about the Underground Railroad and the McClew family, who originally lived on the farm, as well as a hodge-podge of old farm equipment.


After poking around the different displays, I headed into the orchard’s tea room for afternoon tea, where I was served a big double-decker tray of mini-sandwiches and pastries and daintily sliced fruit.


Which quickly became a big double-decker tray of empty pastry wrappers and leftover jam.


I’m not sure how that happened.

I suspect ghosts.

The Winery at Marjim Manor


The brochures describing The Winery at Marjim Manor promised both kind of spirits – the wine kind and the ghost kind — as the winery is believed to be haunted. It’s even been featured on Ghost Hunters and Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America.

I didn’t run into any ghosts while I was there. I did run into cats, though.Which I think we can all agree is much better than ghosts because even if they do try to chew off your face they will look totally adorable while doing it.


The wine, for the most part, was a bit too fruity and sweet for my taste. But I did enjoy this one as it was a bit drier than the others I tried. And BECAUSE CATS, OKAY?


Blackbird Cider Works


I was pretty excited about visiting the newly opened Blackbird Cider Works as I am a huge fan of cider. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s like apple juice but alcoholic! Plus, it makes me feel all fancy and British when I drink it.

Not only was the cider delicious, but the staff at the cidery was super nice and welcoming and put up with my million-billion questions and kept pouring cider into my glass until I was like, “Whoa, guys, I have to drive home. And are the blackbirds on the bottles watching me? Because I’m pretty sure they’re watching me. Ahh, blackbird ghosts, you guys, BLACKBIRD GHOSTS! Or maybe I just need some water.”

See? They're totally watching me.

See? They’re totally watching me.

Baehr’s Ice Cream Cottage


It’s pretty much technically impossible for me to drive by something called an “ice cream cottage” and not swerve my car over to the side of the road immediately. That’s how Baehr’s ended up being my last stop in Newfane.

Besides I was pretty sure I needed something to soak up all that cider. And what better way to do that than with a bowl of ice cream the size of my head?

This was the SMALL size. I swear to you.

This was the SMALL size, you guys. I swear.

Which quickly became an empty bowl of ice cream.

Again, I’m pretty sure the ghosts did that, you guys.

Totally the ghosts.

Have you ever visited a place that was haunted? Did you see any ghosts?
P.S. My day trip in Newfane, NY, was pretty much self-guided and self-funded, but I would like to thank the wonderful peeps at Niagara Tourism & Convention Center for inviting me to come hang out for the day and The Fly Inn Lodge for putting me up for the night (and for all the cinnamon rolls!). Also, a big thanks to all the kind people at the sites I visited who answered my ridiculous questions and didn’t look at me like I was too crazy when I kept on going on and on about the ghosts.

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On June 6, 2013 at 11:06 am Margo said:

    Hope you can visit us again Thursday Afternoon at 3! We’ll be bottling Katapalooza soon. A Sangria style wine, with lots of cats on the label!

  2. On June 6, 2013 at 11:31 am DebbZie said:

    owww….I love ghost stories and I’d love to visit the Van Horn Mansion. Newfane looks like a pretty town. I’ve never heard before but I think I should put it on my bucket list 😀
    DebbZie recently posted..Hokkaido: Things To Do In Mombetsu

  3. On June 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm Carmel said:

    My high school was supposedly haunted. It was built in 1880 and used to be a boarding school, so there was all kinds of creepy things about it. Shawn keeps trying to convince me we should stay in a haunted forest in Romania. I politely declined.
    Carmel recently posted..MY UNDERWATER FEARFUL ADVENTURE

    • On June 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm Sally said:

      Your husband is out of his mind. Doesn’t he know the kinds of things that could go down in a haunted forest? And you won’t be able to get any help because you’re in the MIDDLE OF A FOREST! I prefer my haunted destinations to be very close to authorities.

  4. On June 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm Mariellen Ward said:

    For the record — if anyone is keeping a record of this — I do actually believe in ghosts. That will surprise exactly no one.
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..WeGoSolo Dream Destination Contest

    • On June 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm Sally said:

      I totally and completely believe in ghosts. I’m not kidding you when I say I stay up at night worrying about them coming to eat my face. I have seriously done that. Especially after I found out a pet psychic told my parents that their house is haunted. (Luckily I live in the barn. I pretty sure it’s not haunted. Or at least I HOPE.)

  5. On June 7, 2013 at 2:09 am Daisy said:

    You should come to Portland, OR, and do a tour of the haunted underground tunnels used for shanghaing ( We didn’t see any ghosts, but reportedly many other tour groups have!

    • On June 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm Sally said:

      Haunted underground tunnels? That sounds ridiculously frightening and amazing. One more reason I really, really need to get myself to Portland SOON!

  6. On June 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm Lauren said:

    For your visit next time:
    Gordie Harper’s Bazaar and restaurant
    Bye’s Popcorn
    Singer Farms
    Wilson Boat House and harbor
    30 mile point lighthouse
    Festivals at Krull Park: the Pirate Festival and the Celtic Festival

    • On June 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm Sally said:

      Thanks for the suggestions, Lauren. I was bummed Bye’s wasn’t open when I was there, so, YES, I must go back. And Pirate Festival??? That so needs to happen!

  7. On June 8, 2013 at 4:30 am Heather said:

    I went on a ghost tour in New Orleans once that was creepy and fun, especially since it took place after dark. We didn’t see any ghosts, but all the historical buildings and tidbits were super interesting. I also visited the Winchester Mystery House out in San Jose, CA, whose millionaire owner was haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles. She built features into the house to trick the ghosts, like staircases that led to the ceiling and doors that opened onto brick walls. It’s probably my favorite house tour of all time, just for the sheer craziness!
    Heather recently posted..Once Upon a Tea at the Langham, Hong Kong

  8. On June 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm Priya said:

    Fish skeleton? Creepy baby dolls? I don’t know if I can sleep at night. Thanks.
    Priya recently posted..Confessions of a Hot Yogi: Hand To Armpit

  9. On June 11, 2013 at 5:42 am Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) said:

    Great post. I once did a ghost walk in the old city of London which mainly entailed going to lots of pubs which is quite similar to your experience!

    In one of the pubs their cellar used to be part of the old Newgate prison and the bar staff told us that every day they turn up for work, all of the beer barrels have been scattered about! Every day. A mad drunken ghost! I would love to see that!
    Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) recently posted..Travelling around the world

    • On June 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm Sally said:

      EVERY DAY? That’s crazy. I don’t think I could work there. It’s hard enough to deal with disgruntled customers. But disgruntled ghosts? Sheez!

  10. On June 11, 2013 at 9:17 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    I went to a place called Poogan’s Porch when I was in Charleston, a supposedly haunted restaurant. It totally wasn’t. Not even a little bit. Plus our server was super snooty.

    There are CLEARLY supernatural things happening in Newfane, though. I mean, the fish skeleton. Vanishing ice cream. THE EMPTY PASTRY WRAPPERS.

    I’m going to have nightmares about chocolate eclair stealing ghosts, now.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Colombian Street Art: A Photo Essay

  11. On June 15, 2013 at 3:42 am Ceri said:

    Oooh, I love going places that are ghost-related but then turn into a complete wimp for the rest of the day and can’t sleep without my light, TV and earphones in that night.

    It’s been so long since I had ice cream – you’ve now made me want to go out and find an ice cream cottage.
    Ceri recently posted..NY Bucket List: #1 – Visit Central Park

  12. On August 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm Tim Horanburg said:

    Sally, you really need to come back after Memorial Day when everything is up and running. I will give you a tour, and we can try the hard cider. There is sooo much more to see and do. The Beach is cleaned up w/life guards, Krull Park is 300 acres,with so many activities for kids and adults. We have some of the best wineries on the wine trail, as you know. The carousel park rides are 25 cents to ride. We have one of the finest fisheries in the world along with the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. Olcott Beach is only one part of the Town of Newfane. Also close by is the City of Lockport, Erie Barge Canal, Lockport Caves and Boat rides. You will need more than one day, and I would be happy to host and be your tour guide.
    Gohstly yours:

    Tomthy Horanburg
    Town of Newfane

    • On August 14, 2013 at 12:00 am Sally said:

      Thank you so much for your message and for your invitation! I loved my time in Newfane even though I was there during off-season. I actually just went back to Olcott Beach a few weeks ago for the Pirate Festival. While I was there, I got to show my sister a lot of the great places I visited on my visit as well as visit a few places I didn’t have a chance to visit like Bye’s Popcorn and Singer Farms. We had an excellent time and my sister was stunned so many amazing places exist in that area — she had lived in Niagara County but had no idea. I’ll definitely be back — and I’ll let you know when I am!


  1. Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge